They may own the most wins in the major leagues, but the Boston Red Sox look an awful lot like a .500 ballclub these days.
Coming off a lopsided defeat to the Kansas City Royals, the Red Sox try to get back in the win column Wednesday night when the teams play the decisive contest of their three-game set.
Boston (56-37) has alternated wins and losses since last week’s All-Star break, and fell to 3-3 on its 10-game homestand with a 9-3 loss to Kansas City (40-53) on Tuesday night. Although the Red Sox boast the highest victory total in baseball thanks to a hot start, they’re 20-22 since May 30.
Their division lead remains the largest in the majors, but their advantage over the New York Yankees in the AL East - which grew as big as 14 1/2 games in late May - now stands at eight games.
Boston went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position Tuesday and is batting .234 in RBI situations since May 30. General manager Theo Epstein, though, seems unlikely to panic before the July 31 trading deadline.
“One way for us to improve is to be patient,” Epstein told the team’s official Web site. “You have a number of guys on this team who don’t even have to return all the way to career norms to be really effective hitters.”
The Red Sox and Royals have each gotten a strong start from an unexpected source while splitting the first two games of this series. After Boston rookie Kason Gabbard pitched a three-hitter in a 4-0 Red Sox victory Monday night, Leo Nunez - a minor league callup making his first career start - took a shutout into the fifth inning Tuesday.
Nunez left after throwing 74 pitches in four-plus innings and did not receive a decision, but Kansas City cruised to victory. The Royals improved to 31-16 when their starting pitcher allows three runs or fewer, compared with 9-37 in other games.
“If we can get to our bullpen and we can line them up the way they need to be lined up, then we’re pretty good,” said Kansas City manager Buddy Bell, whose team is 2-3 since the All-Star break.
While the Red Sox have been inconsistent, Boston starter Julian Tavarez (5-7, 5.15 ERA) is in a full-blown slump. The veteran right-hander went 4-0 with a 3.07 ERA in a seven-start stretch May 17-June 20, but is 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA and .390 opponents’ batting average in four outings since.
Tavarez has failed to complete the fifth inning in three of his last four starts, including Friday’s 6-5 loss to Toronto when he yielded four runs, nine hits and three walks in four-plus innings. He didn’t get the decision.
Tavarez is 3-1 with a 5.76 ERA in 11 appearances - four starts - versus the Royals.
Kansas City’s Odalis Perez (4-8, 5.68) is also winless over his last four starts, going 0-1 with a 4.37 ERA. The left-hander did not record a decision in Friday’s 5-4 loss to Cleveland, but he struggled, allowing four runs - three earned - with seven hits and two walks in 4 2-3 innings.
Perez lost his first start of the year April 4 against the Red Sox, giving up four runs over 5 1-3 innings. In four career starts against Boston, he’s 0-2 with a 4.07 ERA.